Celebrating the 'Musicians in Museums' Programme

Celebrating the ‘Musicians in Museums’ programme

The National Coal Mining Museum for England is one of three Museums to have hosted a year-long residency for two folk musicians as part of the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s ‘Musicians in Museums’ programme. The Museum is celebrating the musicians’ year of achievements with a special underground performance at Caphouse Colliery for invited guests.

Bryony Griffith and Andy Seward began their residency in autumn 2017 and have worked with a number of different community groups as well as staff and volunteers, using their creative practises to explore how folk music can offer a different way of connecting with the Museum’s collection. Here are some of their key achievements:

1)      Led sessions with a local youth group, Breakthru Hobury to explore the story of former Bevin Boy, Harry Parkes

2)      Interviewed and recorded several miner guides about their first and last days underground, creating a new archive for the Museum collection

3)      Researched the library collection including oral histories

4)      Led  a folk music session with Y6 pupils as part of an Arts Award programme, Miner to Major (partnership project with Wakefield Music Hub)

5)      Coordinated a family learning session for British Science Week - using specialist microphones and recording equipment, families were able to record the sounds of mechanical exhibits and then have a go at editing and mixing, using state of the art recording software.

6)      Created the Caphouse Singers group - during May and June a group of staff and volunteers met once a week for five consecutive weeks. The group learned three traditional mining songs:  “School Days Over” by Ewan MacColl, “The Old Miner”, written by an unnamed miner at Haunchwood Pit, Nuneaton, Staffordshire and  “Collier Lads” collected by an unknown singer on the South/West Yorkshire border by Nigel Hudleston. The ‘Caphouse singers’ performed for Museum visitors and invited guests as part of a public event to celebrate the Museum’s 30th anniversary on Sunday 3rd June. The group were also invited to sing at the Miners’ Memorial Garden event on 7th June.

The mining songs have been recorded and will form part of Bryony and Andy’s final composition, which be in the form of a Radio Ballad exploring a miners’ first and last day at work. The Caphouse singers will perform their songs at the sharing event in November, which will celebrate the end of the Bryony and Andy’ residency. The Museum is also now considering supporting the singing group on a longer-term basis, which is a fantastic outcome not just for the Musicians in Museums programme but also for the staff and volunteers who have found their folk voices.

Quote from Education Officer, Jayne Young :

“It’s been an absolute joy working with Andy and Bryony over the last year; the skills and knowledge they have brought to the Museum has been really inspiring. Their work will leave a lasting legacy for the Museum both in terms of new archival material and a cultural shift in how staff and volunteers understand the potential for folk music to interpret the collection and connect visitors to our mining heritage. ”

Quote from volunteer  - Caphouse singers group :

“As a volunteer I found it immensely rewarding to be in the choir.  It made me feel quite emotional to sing and be part of the museum. It gave me a feeling of belonging and worthy of being in a team.  Not just a volunteer but part of the whole team.  A very warm feeling.”

Quote from staff – Caphouse singers group :

“I must admit I enjoyed singing much more than I expected. I was surprised how quickly we all picked up the music and lyrics. I felt good that I had been asked to be part of the group. I realise also that I like folk songs and their portrayal of life years ago.”

This project has been funded with the assistance of Help Musicians UK.


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